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Journal of Integrative Medicine ›› 2021, Vol. 19 ›› Issue (4): 291-294.doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2021.03.005

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Integrative medicine in the era of cancer immunotherapy: Challenges and opportunities

Ning Zhang, Xiao-he Xiao   

  1. Department of Liver Disease, the Fifth Medical Center of Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital, Beijing 100039, China
  • Online:2021-08-15 Published:2021-08-30
  • Contact: Xiao-he Xiao

Cancer immunotherapy has led to a new era of cancer treatment strategies, and transforming healthcare for cancer patients. Meanwhile, reports of immune-related adverse events have been increasing, greatly hindering the use of cancer immunotherapy. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which has been widely used in Asian countries for thousands of years, is known to play a complementary role in the treatment of cancer. Taken in combined with conventional modern therapies, such as resection, ablation and radiotherapy, TCM exerts its main anti-cancer effects in two ways: health-strengthening (Fu-Zheng) and pathogen-eliminating (Qu-Xie). Theoretically, pathogen-eliminating TCM can promote the release of tumor-related antigens and should be able to increase the effect of immunotherapy, while health-strengthening TCM may have immune-enhancing mechanisms that overlap with immunotherapy. In the era of cancer immunotherapy, it is important to balance the use of TCM and immunotherapy, with the goal of enhancing immune efficacy and antagonizing immune toxicity. In this article, we discuss this issue by considering the mechanism of tumor immunotherapy, alongside the theoretical basis of TCM treatment of tumors, with the aim of bringing new insights to future research in this field.

Key words: Cancer, Immunotherapy, Traditional Chinese medicine, Risk prevention, Treatment pattern

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